Everything to Know About Service Recovery

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Service recovery and empowerment can help an organization keep customers. Loyal for Life shows professionals how to take an unhappy customer from hell to heaven in 60 seconds or less through service recovery. This is the highest level of customer service.

John Tschohl released his newest book on customer service called "Loyal for Life: How to Take Unhappy Customers From Hell to Heaven in 60 Seconds or Less" in September. The 228-page book is an easy-to-read, powerful primer on service recovery.

"I wrote the book because most companies don’t understand service recovery and how it can mean the difference between success and failure," says Tschohl, founder and president of the Service Quality Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota. "Simply put, service recovery is putting a smile on a customer’s face after you’ve screwed up. It’s solving a customer’s problem or complaint and sending him out the door feeling as if he’s just done business with the greatest company on earth. And it’s doing so in 60 seconds or less."

In Loyal for Life, Tschohl takes readers through a step-by-step course in how to implement service recovery. Using real-life examples, as well as recommended procedures, he describes how to handle specific incidents, identifies service recovery leaders, and offers ideas on how—in 60 seconds or less—employees can transform an angry customer into a happy—and loyal—customer who, Tschohl says, "will sing your praises to anyone who will listen."

"Service recovery will put you and your organization ahead of the competition," he says. "It will prevent customer defections, which will dramatically increase your sales and profits."

Loyal for Life also focuses on compensation as a critical step in the service recovery process. "To simply say you’re sorry when you make a mistake is nice, but it’s not very powerful," Tschohl says. "You must give customers something as compensation, something that has value in their eyes but doesn’t cost the company a lot. For example, a restaurant can offer a free dessert, an airline can upgrade a passenger to first class, or a hotel can offer one free night’s stay. Whatever it is, it has to be something so powerful that customers not only will continue to patronize your business but will tell everyone they know about the wonderful service you provided to them—and we all know that nothing is as powerful as a personal recommendation from a satisfied customer."

Tschohl also tells readers how to train and empower their employees and rid their companies of policies and procedures that get in the way of providing service recovery. "Service recovery must be practiced by frontline employees who have been trained in the art of customer service and who are empowered to make decisions that will result in satisfied and loyal customers," he says. "They should not need the approval of a supervisor or manager to solve a customer’s problem."

While every company, no matter how good, occasionally makes a mistake in serving the customers, most don’t know how to reel disgruntled customers back from the brink of defection. "Even the Amazon.coms of the world occasionally make a mistake," Tschohl says. "How organizations and their employees deal with those mistakes is what separates customer service leaders from the rest of the pack. If one of your goals is to reduce the number of customer complaints directed at your organization, service recovery is the most powerful weapon in your arsenal."

Service recovery not only helps companies retain their customers, it helps them keep their employees, as well. "When employees are trained in customer service and are empowered to make decisions that will satisfy their customers, they are happier in their jobs," Tschohl says. "With service recovery, your customers—and your employees—wouldn’t dream of leaving you."

Tschohl has been preaching the importance of customer service throughout the world for almost three decades. He has developed more than 26 customer service training programs that have been distributed and presented throughout the world. In June, SQI and its Chinese partner—Shanghai Foreign Service Company—were selected to develop the customer service training and certification program for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, which is expected to involve some 300,000 volunteers and 20,000 professionals.

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